Apple wins ban on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 in Europe

A German court has granted Apple a preliminary injunction against the tablet, although this may conflict with a UK decision that cleared Samsung of copying the iPad

Apple has won an EU-wide preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet, after a German court decided the device infringes on Apple's design rights.

The ruling came down from the Düsseldorf regional court on Tuesday morning, according to the Dutch site Webwereld. However, the court also upheld an earlier decision stating that the Galaxy Tab 10.1N — itself a revised model that Samsung created to work around design infringements — did not copy Apple's designs.

Galaxy Tab 7.7
A German court has granted Apple a preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7. Image credit: CNET UK

"Samsung is disappointed with the court's ruling," the Korean manufacturer said in a statement. "We will continue to take all available measures, including legal action, to protect our intellectual property rights and defend against Apple’s claims to ensure our products remain available to consumers throughout the European Union."

In Europe, design patents, or so-called 'community designs', can be enforced on an EU-wide basis. This is the case with the Galaxy Tab 7.7 : if Apple chooses to enforce the ban, it should theoretically come into force everywhere in Europe.

The only place it does not apply is Germany itself, but only because Apple has already won a ban on the device there, on competition-law grounds.

However, the situation in the UK is far from clear-cut. Just last week, High Court judge Colin Birss ordered Apple to put a notice on its site stating that Samsung's tablets do not copy its iPad designs. Earlier this month, the same judge said Samsung's were not copies of Apple's tablet, partly because they were " not as cool ".

It remains to be seen whether the EU-wide ban or UK-specific court decision takes precedence here. ZDNet has asked a few patent lawyers for their opinion, but is yet to get a definitive answer.

Both the UK and German cases deal with alleged infringement of a tablet design that Apple registered in 2004, well before the iPad or even the iPhone came out. 

[NOTE: An earlier version of this story missed the fact that the 2004 designs were examined in the UK case, whereas they were of course central to the case. Duly corrected.]